Week of February 24, 2017


Ball Zero, Take Your Base

This week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the league is scrapping going through the motions of making four pitches on an intentional walk, in order to save time. Managers will now just signal from the dugout. For the record, there was one intentional walk last season every 2.6 games, so if you assume each intentional walk takes 60 seconds, they are shaving maybe 20-25 seconds from each game. The impact on game length is negligible. MLB is right to want to cut down on the dead time of a game, but this is not the solution. It’s not even a solution. It’s an attempt to look like you’re trying to solve a problem when you aren’t.

When the news was first announced this week, I couldn’t decide how I felt. Phil and I were at the Giants 2014 NLDS game when the Nationals tried to intentionally walk Panda, with Posey on third. The pitcher overthrew the catcher. Posey sprinted for home, but was tossed out.

It was still so exciting! I thought of that play immediately upon hearing the news this week. And there’s so much more we will miss, as Grant Brisbee points out. First, pitchers with the yips, like in the play above.  Second, the fake intentional walks, like this:

Third, when the pitcher doesn’t quite get it far enough outside, and gives up a hit:

Fourth, those moments you can’t even predict. Grant relays this great story:

In 1976, Rod Carew was being walked with a runner on second in the 11th inning. This was in a stretch where he had hit .350 or better in each of the last three seasons, so you can get the strategy. But Carew swung at the first two pitches. Not real swings, and not with the intent to put the ball in play. He did it just to get the two strikes on him.

“Here. I’ll spot you two strikes.”

It was hubris. Earned, hilarious hubris of the most magnificent order from one of baseball’s greatest hitters. The intentional walk went on as planned, and the Twins won the game in the next at-bat anyway.

And, finally, the best of all – the home crowd booing. BOOOOOOO:

One of the many best parts of going to a baseball game is getting a couple beers in you and then booing the hell out of some poor schmo, just because. And an intentional walk is a perfect such opportunity. Listen to those boos, Manfred! Those aren’t bored fans. Those fans are ENGAGED. The intentional walk allows for a full minute of booing. It’s cathartic! It’s fun! That’s now gone, replaced by a “huh, what just happened…oh, huh” moment, as fans realize why the hitter is suddenly trotting to first. Congrats. You just saved 20 whole seconds per game. -TOB

Source: Ranking What We’ll Miss the Most About Intentional Walks”, Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (02/23/2017)

PAL: TOB nailed it with describing this as “an attempt to look like you’re trying to solve a problem when you aren’t.” Listen, if the game’s too long for you, then don’t watch. If the game’s too slow, then don’t watch. I’m perfectly content with baseball being the 3rd or 4th most popular sport. I don’t care.

I’ve never heard of the fake intentional walk, and I can’t believe this actually happened in the World Series involving two hall of fame players (Johnny Bench and Rollie Fingers). What a cool surprise. This is the inane minutia that baseball fans love, love, love to bring up over a couple beers, so – yeah – we better get rid of it.


(Rant Alert) How Much Longer Do the Warriors Put Up With Draymond’s B.S.?

Draymond Green is very good at basketball. He defends, rebounds, scores, and keeps the ball moving in a lineup with 3 of the best 15-20 players (depending on where you put Klay) in the league.

Does this rant sound familiar? I opened another writeup about Green pretty much the exact same way on 10/21/16.  And the only thing that’s changed in the time since is Green’s scoring and rebounding (they are down, but the addition of Durant is a big part of this, too).

Steve Kerr and the Warrior’s must be so sick of the Draymond sideshow. Another kicking incident Thursday night (they are not incidental). Another night going at his coach after getting another technical foul…And another Warriors dismantling of the Clippers, complete with a 50-point quarter.

The answer to how long the Warrior’s put up with this is obviously tied to their ability to win at an alarming rate and Green’s essential role in the revolutionary style of small ball. But know that there’s some serious eye-rolling in that locker room right now, and it’s directed at Green. They have to be sick of answering questions about him acting like a jackalope all the time.

Chemistry does matter, I just wonder if the Warrior’s are simply too damn good for it to matter for them. Afterall, winning a championship is hard, even for a team this good.

Oh, wait, they lost last year! They choked up a 3-1 series lead in historical fashion. A major contributing factor was that Green was suspended from game 5 of the Finals due to exceeding his limit of flagrant fouls in the playoffs (not just the groin smack on James). He had to watch game 6 of the NBA finals from the Oakland Coliseum, for crying out loud, and he’s still pulling this crap.

The act is getting old, Green. I love you, man, but stop kicking people and stop showing up your coach. – PAL

Source: Draymond Green Talks Wild Shit, Tries To Kick An Opponent, Has Very Draymond Green Game”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (2/23/17)

TOB: Yeah, maybe they lost the Finals because he missed Game 5. But he played one of the greatest Game 7s in history, in defeat, and he is the straw that stirs their drink. Without him, they are soft, and don’t play much defense. He allows them amazing versatility. So, unless they find someone who gives them what he gives, they won’t get rid of him – because they won’t win 73, or go up 3-1 in the Finals, without him.

PAL: If they are soft without Green, then he should take some pride in that and figure out a way to stay on the court when it matters most. 


AT&T Park: What Might Have Been (Awful. Really Awful)

For my money, there’s no better setting to watch a sporting event than the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. And, as John Shea points out, we can officially put the possessive apostrophe on that, because this past December, the Giants made their final debt payment on the stadium. The Giants officially own their privately-financed stadium. It sure is a gem. But…it almost wasn’t. Thanks to McCovey Chronicle’s Grant Brisbee for linking to this Chronicle article from 2011, looking back at many of the failed stadium proposals in San Francisco history. And…it is not pretty. Just look at some of these monstrosities:

 

Alas, we got this:

And it is good. Rejoice, Giants fans! And get ready for some baseball. It’s just around the corner. -TOB

Source: Five Decades of Failed San Francisco Stadium Ideas”, Peter Hartlaub (07/07/2011)

PAL: Pflueger was ahead of his time proposing a baseball-only stadium back in 1982. Everything he says is right and in line with the baseball stadiums built in the past 20 years. Baseball only facilities. 40-50K seats. Better sightlines for baseball. Cheaper to construct…God, I’m so ready for baseball that I’m responding to a story about stadiums that were never built and I almost wrote about what amounts to a youth baseball tournament in Panama.


Video of the Week: 

“Way to go, Paul!”

 


PAL Song of the Week: Willie Nelson – “Will You Remember Mine”




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“It’s even, but it ain’t settled. Let’s settle it.”

-E. Felson
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Week of February 17, 2017

That's how you arrive to spring training.

That’s how you arrive to spring training.


College Football’s Aging Attendee Crisis

College football is very popular, there is no dispute about that. But other than the elite programs, a vast majority of college football programs are staring down a real crisis to which there is no easy solution: The paying fanbase is getting older and, relatedly, smaller.

Those guys are UNLV fans, while the article focuses on Fresno State, where 49% of season ticket holders are 56 years or older, and only 9% are 35 and younger. As a result, ticket sales are dropping, and revenues are way down. But it’s not just at Fresno: ticket sales nationally have dropped for six consecutive years.  The reason is pretty simple: In the past, very few games were televised. If you wanted to see your team play, you went to the game.

But unlike decades past, every single major college football game is now available on TV. Every week, fans are faced with a decision: (1) travel some distance, fight traffic, pay a lot for parking, pay for the ticket, buy overpriced and mediocre stadium food, (in most cases) be unable to buy a beer, and sit in an uncomfortable seat or bench for, these days, nearly five hours per game including seemingly endless TV timeouts, then fight the crowds to get out and fight traffic to get home; or (2) sit on your couch with a 70-inch TV screen, drinking your beverage of choice and eating anything you’d like, with the ability to pause the game at any time and later fast forward through commercials, and when the game ends, either get on with your day or go to bed.

More and more fans are opting to stay home, and that’s a real problem for college football programs. As Richard Southall, director of the College Sport Research Institute, puts it:

“By and large you have a whole generation of fans, and not just young fans, who have grown up with college sports and all sports being consumed primarily on television,” Southall said. “And as season ticket costs have increased and the need to donate to get better seats, etc., etc., the fact of the matter is for the affordable tickets, the sight lines are not comparable to what you get on television. So, do I want to go to a stadium where I’m up in the nosebleed seats or do I want to have that view on my nice flat-screen TV? And think of what’s going to happen with virtual reality … if I plop my goggles on and I’m going to watch this thing in virtual reality, that’s going to be even more of a challenge because then the experience is immersive.”

Winning, of course, helps a lot. But college football will not survive without a strong middle class, and those programs are hurting. It doesn’t help that the tactics touted in the article are not the solution:

“It has to be an entertainment experience that hits all of the buttons,” said Whitney Wagoner, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, citing the vastness of competitive options. “It has to be interactive. There has to be a real, modern contemporary sense of what it is. The in-stadium entertainment has to stack up with all of the other entertainment options that they could potentially choose from. Music is part of that. Food is part of that. Engagement between timeouts is part of that. They could go to a club or they could go to a comedy show instead of going to a game, so the stadium experience has to deliver on all of those entertainment must-haves.

“Is it a fun place to be? Is the environment great? Is it connective? Can you share experiences? Is it a hyped-up, really great environment? If it is, then they’ll show up. But if it’s run-of-the-mill and kind of looks like it did when they were 10 years old and they went with their mom and dad, that’s not going to be enough.”

No. No, no, no, no. No. As a Cal football season ticket holder I can tell you this crap mentality is how Cal games got inundated with crap like “Simba Cam” and “Muscle Cam” and an endless parade of annoying games during breaks. It’s stupid. Not one person enjoys it. It’s loud and it’s distracting and it sucks. Just shut up and let the band play.

So what is the solution? How do you make attending games fun, while also attracting a likewise lucrative TV audience? The NFL, of course, had a local TV blackout policy for decades: if the game didn’t sell out, the local fans could not watch. This incentivized fans to go to the game. This policy should be on the table for NCAA football.

More than that, though, they need to improve the gameday experience. Games should not be 4 and 5 hours long. Get it back to 3 ½ hours. To do so, TV timeouts need to be shortened, and occur less often. The means of doing so is simple – constant TV ad banners, as in soccer, instead of actual commercial breaks. Soccer does it worldwide, football can do it, too. This will cut the length of games way down, and prevent those long in-game breaks that make attending a game boring and “inspire” people like zWhitney Wagoner, above, to think college football fans are looking to be blitzed with “interactive” crap like the BART race game at Cal games.

This should improve things, considerably. And there we go. I just solved college football’s third biggest problem. -TOB

Source: Fresno State’s Red Wave Turns Into Gray Wave as Bulldogs Struggle to Attract Young Fans”, Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee (02/11/2017)

PAL: I, for one, love the “Muscle Cam”, and I will not – I cannot – stand idly by while you and your “in the good ol days” mentality besmirch its name. 

The oversaturation of games on TV is the killer. And while the schools get a paycheck from the conference from TV deals, there appears to be a cost in terms of butts in seats.

The TV timeouts are insufferable. While a baseball game can be a 4+ hour experience, that’s due to how the game plays out. With football, it’s the TV timeouts seemingly every 5 minutes. There’s zero flow. The in-person experience for a non-marquee game is worse than the TV experience. No doubt in my mind.


5-Star Nepotism?

Michael Johnson Jr. is a top 2019 high school football prospect. Jim Harbaugh hired his dad to be an Offensive Analyst for Michigan. Smells fishy, right? I agree. I dug a little deeper (and by “dug” I mean googled his name).  The dude is qualified for the position:

  • Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
  • Quarterbacks Coach, San Diego Chargers
  • Offensive Coordinator, UCLA
  • Interim Head Coach, UCLA

However, this isn’t the first time Harbaugh has hired parents of a recruit:

“In 2015, Harbaugh hired the mother of Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons to be a director of player development. Last January, he hired the high school football coach from Paramus Catholic, and then signed the country’s top recruit, Rashan Gary from—you guessed it—Paramus Catholic. Last February, after Devin Bush Jr. signed with the Wolverines, Harbaugh added Devin Bush Sr. to the coaching staff.”

Harbaugh is playing the game within the rules of the NCAA, and I have zero doubt other coaches across multiple sports are doing the same thing. It’s just slimy and lame. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s my big take-away from sports in the past couple years: They provide me with some fantastic, awestruck  moments, and there’s a lot of slime underneath those moments. It’s getting harder and harder to compartmentalize. – PAL

Source: Jim Harbaugh Hired The Parent Of A Top Recruit Again,” Laura Wagner, Deadspin (4/14/17)

TOB: This has been going on forever. And as Phil points out, this guy is qualified. But Harbaugh makes headlines, so here we are.

PAL: It’s still lame. I sense a little sensitivity in TOB’s Harbaugh fanboy response.


Don’t Stick to Sports

Obviously, we’ve posted our fair share of stories that land in the intersection of sports and politics in the recent past. TOB and I talk pretty much every day, and the conversation almost always touches on both topics. Wherever you are on the political spectrum, we’ve all been consumed by the the presidency since well before January 20th.

What is the value of athletes’ political beliefs? Should we care what Tom Brady thinks about the president? Is Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem an attention-seeking stunt, or a peaceful protest worth discussing? These are tough questions during a time where all sides seem to be on edge. It’s palpable.

Please read Jay Caspian King’s article on the topic. More than anything I’ve read recently, King adds some much needed perspective to the “stick to sports” debate.

He makes many thought-provoking points, but none more insightful than the following:

“The settled politics of the past, where details can be kept few and the tone nostalgic, are fine. We know, for example, that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line, stole home and wore 42 on his back. Muhammad Ali championed equality and said some funny stuff to Howard Cosell. Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. Their lionization reassures us that the stands they took were good — and can now be consigned to bygone eras.”

“The settled politics of the past…” – That’s what we lack right now, and it’s easy to forget, especially for younger folks, not everyone thought of Robinson, Ali, and King as heroic pioneers in the moment. It’s foolish to ignore that athletes speaking up helped settle the politics of the past.  

None of the debates and social issues of today are settled. Not even close. But believe this: Athletes will shape the national attitude towards many social and political issues. Don’t worry. The smart ones, the courageous ones – those are the voices that will resonate.

So I say keep talking, athletes. I may not agree with all of them, and I’ll likely criticize some of them, or – in Tom Brady’s case – make fun of them, but keep talking. – PAL

Source: Should Athletes Stick to Sports?, Jay Caspian King, The New York Times Magazine (2/14/17)

TOB: I’ve written about this a few times over the last few months, and could not agree more. I don’t understand fans who put athletes on a pedestal and then ask them to shut up and play. My beef with Tom Brady was not that he supported the other guy. but because he showed his support and then wanted to pretend like that support didn’t mean something. Have the courage of your convictions and stand up for what you believe. I might not agree, but I’ll respect it. It’s a heck of a lot better than the “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” philosophy of Michael Jordan and other athletes of my youth.


The Invention of a Sport

The history of most sports, minor and major, are largely disputed. The only major sport with no real dispute as to its origins is basketball, invented by Dr. James Naismith at a YMCA in 1891. But who invented baseball? Soccer? Football? Rugby? Golf? All unclear, and hotly debated, as they all evolved over time. What about leisure sports like croquet? Horseshoes? The same. Even a relatively young and popular game like cornhole doesn’t have a definitive origin story. And so it was with great interest I read this story about Fowling. Invented by accident at an Indy 500 tailgate in 2001 by friends from Detroit. 16 years later, Fowling is taking off in Detroit, as inventor Chris Hutt has opened a massive Fowling warehouse.

The rules of Fowling (football + bowling) are simple. Ten bowling pins are set up. And two teams of two try to knock down all ten pins by taking turns throwing a football at them.

It’s silly and stupid and easy to play – I know I’d love it. What do you say, Phil? Let’s get some pins and go fowl. -TOB

Source: Fowling: A Detroit Original”, Frank Sorise, TBD Mag (November 2016)

PAL: Get some pins and go fowl? Nah. Let’s go to Detroit and do this for real. What a dumb, fun, entertaining story. The guy as the perfect chin goatee – of course he invented a new beer game.


Video of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Sinkane – “Runnin'”




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“You look like a Kid Rock concert.”

-R. Rowe

Week of February 10, 2017

img_1421

The force was strong.


Bettman’s Bust

C.T.E. sure seems real. Of the 96 N.F.L. players who’ve donated their brains to C.T.E. research, 92 have been found to have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. For the N.H.L. players, it’s an ominous 5 for 5. Between the two sports, 97 of 101, or 96%. If you want more qualitative data, check out the story we posted a couple weeks ago about Zac Easter, or check out the HBO Real Sports segment on Kevin Turner. Every early indication tells us the dam on C.T.E. has already broken, and we’re just waiting for the flood.

With that known, I’m flabbergasted by the N.H.L. right now. After watching a far bigger entity in the N.F.L. settle and get the hell out of the way, the N.H.L. is taking a wait and see approach to C.T.E.

In the fall of 2016, N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman planted his flag on the following hill:

“The science regarding C.T.E., including on the asserted ‘link’ to concussions…remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes C.T.E. and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms. The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of C.T.E. remains unknown.”

Furthermore, the N.H.L. has “demanded troves of information from research done by neurology experts at Boston University who have examined the brains of more than 200 athletes for C.T.E. and have done groundbreaking work on the subject.”

Bull. For one thing, The N.H.L. is not an impartial party. Also, the B.U. research – some published and some unpublished – is based on donations provided under the condition of anonymity and are protected by medical privacy laws. And for good measure, most of the people who donated their brains never played hockey.

What is the N.H.L. thinking? The N.F.L., which pulls in 3x-4x more in revenue per year ($4B for N.H.L. vs somewhere near $13B for the N.F.L.), wanted no part of a class action lawsuit and settled more or less right away with former player. It makes sense. From a league standpoint, there is no victory here. You can even set aside the science, and – you know – loss of life. There is no dollar amount you can place on the P.R. nightmare.

If you’re not so sure – again – I encourage you to read Zac Easter’s story or watch the Kevin Turner segment on HBO.

This article does a great job showing the N.H.L’s response within an even scarier context: Big Tobacco back in the 50s. Research came out connecting smoking to lung cancer. Their response: Let our folks take a look at the research.

How does the saying go? Something about history and being doomed to repeat itself? Get your head out of the sand, Bettman. No league is too big to fail, especially not yours. – PAL

Source: The N.H.L.’s Problem With Science”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (2/8/17)


Back in the Day When I Was Young I’m Not a Kid Anymore…

Alex Mack (Go Bears!) is the best center in the NFL. Maybe the best offensive lineman. The dude just played the entire Super Bowl with a broken leg, and played well. Alex provided, to me, the most interesting story of the Super Bowl. In the week before the game, he was asked who was the best high school football player he ever saw. Alex thought about it and dropped the name Duncan Krier, a childhood friend and high school teammate. The reporters had never heard of Duncan Krier, and the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke did some digging. He eventually found a Duncan Krier working as a ticket salesman for a minor league hockey team in Portland. Sure enough, it was Alex’s old buddy.

It reminds me of the story we featured on go-kart racer Terry Fullerton, who the great Ayrton Senna said was the best driver he ever faced. Was Alex being serious about Krier?  Krier seems to think so, lamenting the knee injury that ruined his football career before he even left high school: “That’s wild. That’s insane. Holy hell. Alex really said that about me? The crazy thing about it is, I think he’s probably right. And I still think about that almost every day.” I’m not so sure. I think Alex was looking back on the road that led him to the pinnacle of his profession, and taking a moment to remember someone he cared about and lost touch with along the way. Krier said he hadn’t spoken to Alex in 12 years. Maybe this was Alex’s way of reaching out to his old friend. I hope the two can reconnect. -TOB

Source: Not Forgotten: For Every Super Bowl Star, There’s an Equally Talented Player Who Didn’t Make It”, Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times (02/03/2017)

PAL: Plaschke nails the supposed fine line –

“For every Alex Mack, there is a Duncan Krier. For every star, it seems there is an equally bright light who grew up alongside him and yet somehow faded. Maybe it was injury. Maybe it was fate. Whatever it was, it illustrates the fine line between a man playing in the Super Bowl and a former teammate watching on TV.

“It is a line so thin that their career paths may have diverged with one play. Yet it is a barrier so thick that when one of those fallen stars is mentioned in a Super Bowl news conference, a reporter must resort to Google to determine whether he even exists.”

Later in the article, Krier says he was dealt a bad hand. Come on, man. Simplifying the difference between he and Mack down to a fluke play in high school undercuts Mack’s accomplishments. Their destinies were not etched in stone in some high school game. Mack is a pro because of so much than what he was in high school, and Krier is who he is – good and bad – because of so much more than a high school injury.


Sports Suck

Sometimes we feature stories that make me think, “Man, this is why I love sports.” This is not one of those stories. While sports can bring out the best in humanity, it can also bring out the worst, and that’s the case here. In an excellently reported piece, Matt Stanmyre and Steve Politi of NJ.com uncover a brewing scandal. Paterson Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey’s boy’s basketball coach, Juan Griles, has been finding kids from across the globe and moving them into his two-bedroom apartment and becoming their legal guardian, all so they can play basketball.

That’s a little shady, but it gets worse. As you might imagine, Griles is not doing this out of the kindness of his own heart. At present, approximately six players are living in his apartment. The players complain of lack of food. One player said they were fed spaghetti for dinner was spaghetti for “a whole two weeks” or worse, “just a loaf of bread to last two people for like two weeks.” And, of course, if the players don’t produce, they are exiled. One players, having been kicked out of the house, “was found alone and hungry by a district teacher after spending a night alone in a local Dunkin’ Donuts.” Christ. The coach denies wrongdoing, but a child protection investigation is underway. This story is crazy. It’s HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL. There’s not even a lot of money at stake. It’s just ego. I’m disgusted. -TOB

Source: “Hoops Power Packs Roster from Overseas; State Questions Safety of Teens Living With Coach”, Matt Stanmyre and Steve Politi, NJ.com (02/06/2017)

PAL: What more is there to add? Sports can bring out the best – especially in kids – and it brings out the worst in adults.


Adult Autograph Seekers: Re-examine Your Life

I don’t get autographs. I don’t get pictures with celebrities. What do they actually mean, and what story do they tell? You happened upon someone by dumb luck. We know this person. They signed this thing, and that’s proof that you met them. The end. Cool story, bro.

Golfer Jordan Spieth recently ranted about adult autograph seekers. There’s no real story here, other than to agree with Spieth. While I don’t love the goodie goodie “they swore in front of kids” argument from the golfer (spoiler alert: Welcome to the big bad world – people swear in public, especially at sporting events), Spieth is right. Who are these guys, and – honestly – how much does a Jordan Spieth autograph go for on Ebay (between $100 – $1000). What a fun way to make a living.

 

Hey, younger, successful person. Sign your name so I can put it online and profit off of your success.

Get a life. Honest to god – can someone explain autographs to me? Here’s a autographed golf ball from Spieth, going for $750 on ebay. Signatures and dimples do not mix.

My dad has a pretty solid collection of signed baseballs (Willie Mays, Bob Feller, and a J.D. Drew ball signed while he played for the St. Paul Saints during his holdout with the Phillies…cherry) – maybe he can explain it to us. I must note that my dad didn’t hound players for their autograph. He paid a premium to buy them in a store with a nice plastic case like any self-respecting adult would. – PAL

Source: Jordan Spieth Has Had It With Professional Autograph Seekers”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (2/8/17)


Video of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Justin Townes Earle – “Harlem River Blues”



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“So, you see, the puppy was like industry. In that, they were both lost in the woods. And nobody, especially the little boy – ‘society’ – knew where to find ’em. Except that the puppy was a dog. But the industry, my friends, that was a revolution…Knibb High Football rules!”

-B. Masdison

Week of February 3, 2017


The Surest Path to the Super Bowl Starts at a D-III School

John Carroll University has about 3,700 students. The university competes in the Ohio Athletic Conference, and it currently has 7 former football players getting ready for Super Bowl LI. They won’t be playing, but the little Jesuit school in University Heights, OH has become a N.F.L. pipeline for coordinators, coaches, and general managers.

“New England has seven full-time football staffers who played football for the Blue Streaks and graduated: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (Class of ’99); director of player personnel Nick Caserio (‘99); assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski (‘99); director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler (‘00); coaching assistant Nick Caley (‘06); pro scout Frank Ross (‘10); and scouting assistant D.J. Debick (‘12).”

The path was created long before the Patriots. Don Shula graduated from John Carroll. Former N.F.L. executive Bill Polian’s two sons went J.C.U. went there, too, and it sounds like they found their tribe while playing for the Blue Streak (what a terrible team name): straight-laced football geeks who knew their playing days would end when their college eligibility ran out.

As it goes in so many fields, a recommendation gets an interview, but the person gets the job, and he/she busts ass to rise the ranks. They then hire people they trust. And so it goes.

Nepotism doesn’t get a potential hire very far in this scenario. As McDaniels puts it, “[the Carroll connection will] get you a conversation. But if you cannot deliver value to our organization, we’re going to have no use for you. Being from John Carroll distinguishes you from a pile of strangers. But don’t think that just because you know somebody here, that we’re going to take you on because we went to the same school.”

An interesting read during the week before a the Super Bowl that’s usually filled with the fluffiest of fluff. – PAL

Source: How Division III school John Carroll became a Patriots pipeline”, Lorenzo Reyes, USA Today (2/1/17)


More Chicken than G.O.A.T.

 

I’m struggling, folks. I realize for the last eight years I had my guy in the White House. It was much easier to defend your guy when he’s in charge than it is to acknowledge folks have a very different set of beliefs when their guy’s in charge. The dangerous/foolish admission is I have a really hard time believing the majority of Americans are down with some of the recent moves from the Trump White House.

Look, this isn’t a political blog, and I have no interest in making it one. But I’m struggling. I don’t want to be alarmist, but Trump’s first couple weeks have me legitimately alarmed:

  • The travel order
  • Trump’s insertion of Steve Bannon – a political advisor with a downright scary, nationalist track record – on the principles committee of the National Security Council
  • Trump’s “go nuclear” (bypass supermajority) order in the event the dems halt Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch after republicans filibustered Obama’s nominee for a year.
  • And the ever-present fear: Mike Pence is next in line.

Here’s the deal: Donald Trump won the election, and I live in a hyper-progressive bubble. I am not the majority. I really, really want to ground myself in that truth – honest to god I do – but I just don’t respect Trump. Not at all. Perhaps this is how many felt when liberals have sat behind the desk in the Oval Office.

What the hell does this have to do with sports? Not a lot, but a little. Once example is Football-obsessed Tom Brady. Touchdown Tommy is a Trump supporter, and initially showed his support by way of staging a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker way back in September of 2015. He’s dodged every question about it since with his “I’m just here to win football games” response.

I shouldn’t care. Goddamn, I shouldn’t care about a bimbo quarterback’s political views. Hell, maybe he’s simply friends with Trump and put the hat up there when the notion of him winning the election seemed so far-fetched. It’s absurd!

Yet, I really care that Brady answer some basic questions. I care because of the travel order that predominantly targets a religion, which is historically un-American. I care because we have in Bannon a political advisor with a main seat in matters of war, and I care because Supreme Court seats have a much longer impact than presidencies. And if you’re going to put the hat up there, then grow a pair and answer some questions.

1-2-3 Favorite Barry Petchesky puts it this way:

Let’s be clear: Under ordinary circumstances, athletes’ politics are their own, and they shouldn’t be expected to have to explain them more than anyone else. But that goes two ways. These are extraordinary circumstances—unprecedented, history-altering circumstances—and the country feels like it’s coming apart. Right now, it’s not enough for the Trump supporter around the corner to explain his support with a shrug, and it’s not okay for a famous one to grin and smirk because Durr, Donald’s my friend.

Own it, Touchdown Tommy. If you’re going to put the hat right in the camera frame of your locker, then give us some rationale.

No one cares about your TB12 brand (or whatever the crap it is), or your Stetson endorsement, your Uggs endorsement, or whatever the hell else you lend your name to these days. Don’t hide behind the Super Bowl, or your wife’s mandate you stop talking politics. Whether you know it or not, pretty boy, you made a political statement with the hat, then you shriveled when actually asked about it.

Go Falcons (but, really, I’m picking the Falcons). – PAL

Source: I’m Fed Up With Tom Brady”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (1/31/17)

TOB: I’m feelin’ it, Phil! Frankly I had a hard time writing about sports this week. My mind is consumed by what the hell is happening in our country, and the world. The scariest, to me, is the fact President Bannon seems hellbent on going to war with China. Which, swell. It’s not hyperbole to say that’s a potential world-ender. But all of it’s bad. Take some solace in the fact you’re not in the minority: not only did Trump lose the popular vote, which would have him lose the election in a “democracy”, but his approval rating is around 42% (which is still insanely high).

Anyways, Brady is a bimbo and Petchesky’s story is really good. Read it. I laugh every time I think of the line, “it’s not okay for a famous one to grin and smirk because Durr, Donald’s my friend.”


When Will College Athletes Wake Up?

This story was making the rounds on Twitter early in the week, and I was excited to read an “illustrated guide to a recruiting visit at Nick Saban’s house.”

ESPN generally sucks these days, and that includes its sportswriting. So I should not have been surprised this story was so disappointing. I thought it would be an inside look at the side of recruiting we normally don’t get to see. Instead…this might as well have been a paid advertisement for Alabama. This thing is short, maybe 800 words, and all I learned is Saban has a big house, nice cars, and lives by a lake. Which…yeah, obviously. What a waste of two minutes. But my beef with this story is more than that. Something about it sat very poorly with me. I understand 18-year old kids are 18-year old kids, and they can be impressionable. But these kids are impressed by Saban’s big house and his fancy cars. If they did some critical thinking, they might wonder why Nick Saban lives in this insane house, and has fast cars “designed” by his son, while they get a fourth-rate education and no pay. Think, fellas. Expect more. Demand more. -TOB

Source: An Illustrated Guide to Recruiting Visits at Nick Saban’s House”, Jeremy Willis, ESPN (01/30/2017)


Video of the Week: 

Lane Kiffin, everybody. Feel the energy. And an excellent parody here by SI’s Andy Staples.


PAL Song of the Week: Darrell Scott – “I Still Miss Someone” (Johnny Cash)




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“That dude is a bad mother. You talk about a loan shark. I borrowed a nickel from him last week. He said if I didn’t give him a dime by Friday, he’d break my arm.”

-Ahmad Abdul Rahim